Throughout the 1980s and early 1990s, Marden indulged in the possibilities of linear abstraction, reveling in gestural compositions and forms that overlap in locked embrace. As he progressed through the decade of the 1990s, Marden’s color schemes varied from vivid and florid to soft and atmospheric, and his line flattened and broadened as it wended its way across his surfaces. As the rounded spaces within Marden’s web of interlocking lines enlarged, references to sculptural and volumetric characteristics can be discerned and curator Charles Wylie has noted a suggestion of the rounded proportions of the diminutive Venus of Willendorf, one of the oldest known carved representations of the human figure. (Exh. Cat., Dallas, Dallas Museum of Art,Brice Marden, Work of the 1990s: Paintings, Drawings, and Prints, 1999, p. 35) By the time he produced the Stele series, Marden’s forms had a new measured pace and the circuitous linear networks abandoned the braided and intertwined compositions of the early 1990s, and instead retained Marden’s intersecting linear construct, overlaying one another in an undeviated hierarchy of line.
An exquisite interplay of simplicity and complexity, clarity and mystery, Stele Drawing 9 embodies Marden’s deep affinity for drawing as the wellspring of creative endeavor. Jackson Pollock is often cited as an inspiration for Marden’s all-over compositions, both in his monochromatic panel paintings and in his linear abstract drawings, and Pollock’s famous melding of “drawing into painting” is clearly relevant to Marden’s paintings and drawings of the 1990s. Once the calligraphic drawings and paintings afforded Marden a new field of inspiration and operation, the panoply of variations to follow in the 1990s and 2000s engendered masterpieces of organic, rhythmic and atmospheric beauty.
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